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If Only We Could Agree

... have you been accused of misspelling a word you know is correct...
usanne O’Leary wrote an interesting article on her experience with the variations of the English language in different countries. You know the obvious ones like colour with or without a “u” but less obvious ones like travelled versus traveled. Growing up in Sweden she learnt English in school—the UK variation. In publishing her books, she read reviews where she was criticized for improper spelling. False accusations as it turns out. While I write tire and cozy, it’s not incorrect to write tyre or cosy. Same language. Both accepted. Just different.
You can read her write-up here along with the numerous comments posted by readers. I found it interesting, but that’s me.
As a Canadian I deal with this issue everyday.
I feel her pain when she’s criticized for something based on ignorance. No fun. I was told by a boss that “data are” isn’t correct. It should be “data is.” Read most popular media and you’d think the word data is singular. Read scientific writings and you realize it’s plural. Few seem to know the word datum, the singular, exists. Such is the perils of being a writer. Use ‘data is’ and appear to be correct but piss off the few in the know or use ‘data are’ and get the reverse. It seems you can’t win except for: use another word.
I used the word media and the same applies. Media—medium. Stadia—stadium. And other Latin-derived words.
I write with Canadian English. It does exist. It’s a mix of UK & US variations with a sprinkling of unique Canadian idioms plus meanings to certain words that would confuse most non-Canadians. But even in Canada, there’s no consensus. Some don’t know. Some don’t care. You’re just as likely to see someone write about getting their driver’s license as they think about getting their pilot’s licence. Most don’t see the difference. The Globe & Mail has a style guide that is uniquely Canadian and it does have some effect on the words used in newspapers, but people are largely apathetic about it.
I use Microsoft Word. It was a feature I like. Set the language for spell check. My version has English (US), English (UK), English (Canada). I use the latter and it works for me.
I have a preference for using learnt and dreamt instead of learned and dreamed. Just me. Some oppose. But how can you predict who will react negatively? You can’t. I think the key is to be consistent. Unless you’re righting for affect. I mean, writing for effect.

P.S. Tack Susanne.
P.P.S Thanks Rags. I knew later should have been latter, meant to change it and managed in the rush to forget to do so. That's the nature of writing. It's fixed now.
Posted 2012/06/11 at 10h42ET in Writing, Words.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very interesting, James. I love reading about how the 'other half' manage when it comes to reading 'mongralised' basic English. 'I use the later and it works for me.' Was that a deliberate Fox's Paw, James?
    Yes, very enlightening, thank you, James.

    Rags (What do I know, anyway) Daniels.


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